THE QUEEN BEE
don’t know why I bother, you all have minds like sieves.” Mrs. Fallon,
otherwise known as the Dragon, walked between the rows of chairs and slammed
each student’s pop quiz on his or her desk. A chorus of groans rose, and the
cracks around the teacher's down-turned, ruby-painted lips deepened as she announced each
grade: "D, D plus, D minus, F, F, D, C minus –”
Gwen, C minus.” She picked up Gwen’s test paper and looked it over. Gwen
lowered her head in shame. “C minus is what you deserve if you think the first
Magna Carta was signed in 1225 by King Henry III when it was actually signed by
King John in 1215. At least you knew that Magna Carta is Latin for “Great
Charter”, unlike Omar, who wrote, and I quote, ‘the Magna Carta has
something to do with lava’.
don’t grade on a curve, Gwen. If you want an A in this class, you will have to
work harder. You should at least be pleased to know your C minus puts you
on the top of this dung heap. They say those who don’t learn history are
doomed to repeat it. If that is true, I will probably be seeing a lot of your
blank faces next year.”
continued handing back tests: "C minus, D plus, F, D plus…
looked at the blaring red D plus on her test. It would bring down her average. She could have had an A
minus average. What was the point of learning this stuff
anyway? It was not that bad when they studied American history last year. Mr.
Simon was fun: he brought in music and videos, and he got so excited when he
talked about the Great Depression, the Cold War, and the Peace Movement in the
Sixties. The only thing that seemed to get the Dragon excited was the
opportunity to watch her class fail.
tugged Sandy’s arm. She looked over at his desk. In his notebook was a cartoon
of a dragon with blue eye shadow, pencil thin raised eyebrows, thick red lips
and a ruler in its claws. A speech balloon by its head read, “Whom shall I
muffled a giggle. Everyone jumped when Mrs. Fallon slammed her hand on her desk.
Day Goldberg, would you care to share what it is you find so amusing with the
rest of the class?”
wouldn’t happen to be this?” Dan closed his notebook, but the Dragon grabbed
it from him anyway. She flipped through it quickly.
she said. “This isn’t art class, Daniel.”
violently ripped out a few empty pieces of paper and handed them back to him.
will give you the rest of your notebook after the lesson, and I expect you to
copy all your work into a three-ring binder by class time tomorrow. These spiral
notebooks are unacceptable, and so are these drawings. Is that understood?”
I’m left-handed,” said Dan. “The rings in binders get in the way when I
try to write.”
don’t get in the way when you try to draw.” She lowered her gold-rimmed
glasses and glared at him.
shrank in her chair. Come on, Dan, what are you doing? Please, don’t cause
because I draw on the back side of the page,” he said.
from now on you will leave the back side of the page blank.” Mrs. Fallon
turned around and walked to the marker board in the front of the class. Sandy
sighed. That was lucky. She must be off her game:
her punishments are usually a lot worse.
open your books to page 243,” said the Dragon. “Now that you have proven you
know absolutely nothing about the Magna Carta, it is time for you to show me how
little you know about your homework from last night, feudalism and the Middle
rest of the lesson dragged on as it always did. Dan drew on his desk. He had to
draw on something. It was just the way he was.
thought about the day they met in kindergarten. The teacher, Mrs. Sun, had asked
them to draw flowers, and Dan drew a big, beautiful sunflower with a brown
circle in the middle and pointy petals filled in with bright yellow crayon.
Sandy tried to copy it but got frustrated and made a big yellow and brown
squiggle instead. She sat in the corner, crossed her arms and started to cry.
Dan took her hand and patiently explained to her about the parts of a flower,
their shapes and sizes. Together they made a pretty rainbow colored daisy.
not what a real flower looks like,” she told him.
is if you want it to be,” he said.
cool girls ate lunch in the cafeteria or not at all. The cool girls didn’t
bring their food outside to the quad, especially not on a cold November day like this.
It was beneath them to sit with the losers, the teacher’s pets and the
outsiders. They didn’t have mothers who insisted they take sandwiches packed
in bags with boxes of juice. Or if they did, they
didn’t care. They drank diet sodas for lunch and occasionally sneaked
cigarettes in the girl’s bathroom. So what was the queen bee herself doing
here with her too tight shirt, too short skirt, blond-streaked hair, and
entourage of drones? The glint of trouble in Jade’s brown eyes matched the
sparkle from the imitation diamond stud in her nose. Jade catwalked up to Dan
and grabbed his backpack. She opened it and pulled out the spiral notebook.
it is girls.” She waved it in front of her friends. “The infamous collection
of forbidden artwork.”
do you want?” Sandy asked.
leafed through the pages. “Dragons, wizards, spaceships, superheroes,
unicorns, elves. Oh, I like this one. The knight is clearly you, but who’s the
damsel in distress?”
of the drones cooed and pointing at the picture. “Look at all the little
it certainly isn’t you, Jade,” said Dan. “You haven’t got a heart.”
she replied with a pout. “That really stings, Dan my man, and to think I came
here to do you a big favor.”
have got to be kidding!” Sandy said.
off, Sandra dear,” Jade replied.
only one who’s buzzing off, Jade, is you,” said Dan.
Jade rolled her eyes, wedged herself between Dan and Sandy and pinched Sandy’s
arm hard. Sandy screamed. She wanted to kick the queen bee back to her hive, but
the drones got in the way. Jade flicked her hand to shoo Sandy from her mind,
turned her back on her, and started talking to Dan.
am so sorry the Dragon took away your notebook.” She twisted a lock of hair
around her finger, and put her other hand on his shoulder. “She didn’t have
the right to do that.”
uh,” buzzed the drones.
an artist,” Jade continued, “and it’s your notebook. You have the right to
draw whatever you want in it. So we were thinking – ”
look,” said one of the drones. “There’s Gwen.”
would I care?” said Jade. The bees laughed. It was a running joke with them.
Gwen dear,” Jade called across the yard. “Gwhat a lovely sweater. It looks
so nice and cozy gwarm.”
got up from her place on the wall, picked up her bag and walked back into the
building, her head held high.
Sandy had to admire her for that. Jade frowned.
did her parents call her that anyway gwhen she was born?” a drone added.
know,” said Jade. “I mean, gwhat were they thinking?”
the bees laughed. Dan turned red.
on, Sandy,” he said. “We’re leaving.”
grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back down on the wooden bench.
the big deal, Dan my man? We were just having a little fun.”
someone else’s expense.”
of the drones pointed at each other and broke out laughing.
Gwen!” squealed one. “Dorky Dan is hot for the class brainiac!”
oh Gwendolyn, let down your hair, so that I may climb the golden stair!”
shouted another looking up at some imaginary tower. “Or better yet, let down
your braces and make it a ladder!”
shouted Jade. She folded her arms and glowered at them until they gulped and
shifted their eyes to their feet.
getting back to the Dragon,” she said turning to Dan, “we think it’s time
someone put her in her place, and we think that someone should be you.”
you even here?” Jade replied over her shoulder. “So what do you say, Dan my
Dan tried to get up again, and once again Jade pulled him down.
on,” she said, “you don’t want to be a part of the loser squad for the
rest of your life, do you?”
know it would really impress Gwendolyn,” said one of the drones. “What girl
doesn’t want a handsome knight to rescue her from a terrible, fire breathing
said Jade. “The Dragon gave Gwen a C minus. Your ladylove’s honor has been
impugned, whatever that means. Will you let this crime go unpunished?”
on, Dan,” said Sandy. “We’re going to be late for our next class.”
are you talking about?” Jade said. “I don’t hear the –”
bell rang. Everyone picked up their backpacks and headed inside.
ought to get a watch,” said Sandy.
I though I heard someone talking to me,” said Jade, “but there’s nobody
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